Ton Up in the Forties?
As the leading group in the Vendee Globe close towards Cabo Frio, north of Rio, where today they should join a fast moving low pressure system which they will ride south eastwards into the Roaring Forties towards the Cape of Good Hope, pacemaker Alex Thomson's lead continues to climb towards 100 miles.
Overnight all of the average speeds computed for Thomson's Hugo Boss confirm a continuing speed edge and his margin on the first ranking of this Friday morning is 95.5 miles. As the leaders now curve very slightly more east of south, Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) is back up to second place, while third placed Sebastien Josse (Edmond De Rothschild) is now 100 miles to the east of Thomson's line and 100 miles behind. The frontrunners are averaging more than twenty knots, but the atmosphere is set to change going in for days from the tropical heat to the icy cold conditions of the Southern Ocean. The bulk of the pack is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel that has been the Doldrums. Only two skippers are stuck in this dreaded Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone.
This twelfth day of racing could shake up the rankings and in the medium term will influence the positioning to determine the entry point into the Southern Ocean, the hardest and most demanding stretch of the Vendée Globe. With the frontrunnrs set to catch the low-pressure area coming out of the Bay of Rio this evening, the acceleration should be impressive with an ideal angle of attack for the foil-assisted boats at between 110° and 140° to the real wind. Speeds are set to rise in the coming hours, as a steady breeze of around twenty knots is forecast with slight seas. The position of the British leader is favorable, as it should allow him to take a trajectory towards Gough Island (to be left to starboard at 40° S), which he should reach in around four days. The precise angle of the curve taken by the five foilers and two boats with straight daggerboards (PRB and SMA) is going to be interesting to analize.
Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) should still be able to hop onto the tail of this low as it moves quickly down to the Roaring Forties before sliding under South Africa, but it is not certain he will be able to stay with this northerly air stream for very long. The reason being that behind there is an area of thunderstorms developing and the trade winds are likely to be disturbed at the latitude of Salvador da Bahia by mid-week. The gang of three (Le Cam, Dick, Ruyant) are likely to be slowed and those, who are just getting out of the Doldrums will only find trade winds blowing at around ten knots. The gaps are set to widen considerably.
At the rear of the fleet, only Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is struggling in the Doldrums, while Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean), who passed Tanguy de Lamotte going in the opposite direction during the night is continuing to sail down to the Cape Verde Islands in a fairly light NE'ly trade wind. Even Irishman Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) seems to have got out of the sticky patch following the Dutchman, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back). For most of the pack, there is the pleasure of knowing that the Doldrums are now behind them. In 15-knot SE'ly trade winds, it's time for a break, time to carry out a check-up and to enjoy quieter and more relaxing times.
Paul Meilhat (SMA):
"I've slowed right down for the past hour. Conditions are very unstable and it's getting worse. The trade winds are gusting from 12-13 up to 22-23 knots. I think that is down to the thundery area of low pressure that we'll be picking up off Cape Frio. The breeze is gradually turning more northerly. My routing led me further east than my rivals, following Sébastien Josse. I have to respect the polars for my boat, which doesn't have foils and I think that those in front have a different wind. There is the problem of deciding whether to sail further but faster or taking a shorter route to the east. It's not entirely certain that we'll make it onto the big low off Brazil. I'm going to have to think about other possibilities, if things don't work out. Conditions continue to favor the leaders. It's a bit frustrating to lose ground to the foilers, but we expected that after seeing them train in Brittany. We're going to have to be patient. There will be other opportunities further down the track."
Bertrand de Broc (MACSF):
"I got a bit of rest during the night. It's straight ahead in the 15 knot SE'ly trade wind. The Doldrums took ages and we lost a lot of miles. On the first night, Kito de Pavant left us standing, but the second night went better, before a horrible third night. I have rarely seen so much rain. Now we're heading south along the coast of Brazil. A lot is going to happen between Salvador da Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, a sort of mini Doldrums. That will once again favor those in front…"
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